where i have been
I’ve been missing from this space for so long now that when I sit down to write, it feels foreign and almost uncomfortable. It feels like I don’t know it any more, this blog that once felt like my best friend. Now, she’s like that friend from college who, as it turns out, I really don’t have much in common with these days, but I know that once, long ago, we had lots of great times together and shared all of our secrets. The conversation is now slow to start and we can’t get past the awkward silences and talking about the weather. I really want to hang out with her again, but I’m not sure I’ll be able to confide in her as openly and trustingly as I used to.
I’ve intended to write so many things over so many of these past two years, but I freaked myself out a bit. I began to think about those of you who may still be reading here (when there is something to read). I know many of you may be strangers, some of you are old friends from food blogging and social media, some of you may be friends or colleagues from my real life (as opposed to this online one), a handful of you are family or friends of the family, and a small number of you (or maybe more?) may be patients or friends of patients. I questioned whether it was good for me to be so honest and open and raw. I began to wonder whether what I share here could hurt me in any way. Or whether it could hurt someone I love.
I have never written anything here that I regret (with the exception of that embarrassingly naive first post). Professionally, when I speak to residents or medical students or other physicians about social media and having an online presence, I teach them to never write or share anything that would make their mothers embarrassed. I have practiced what I teach.
But despite my past comfort with being honest in my sharing here, I scared myself away from writing in my blog over these past couple of years with my fear of letting you in. Sure, I’ve written a handful of things, but I’ve not really let you in since my father died. It was not you that scared me off, though. Your comments and emails have been wonderful and supportive and caring. It was me. It was my own fear of being honest and admitting…what? Not weakness, no. Maybe just fear of admitting that life was harder than I could handle.
Many of you must know of Glennon Doyle Melton, or if you don’t know her name, you probably know her blog, Momastery. After reading a handful of her posts over the past year or two, I began following her page on Facebook. Almost two weeks ago, she shared a link to a video she’d made for a TEDx conference in Traverse City. The video was called Lessons from the Mental Hospital, and I’ve now watched it twice. In it, Glennon speaks about overcoming her addictions. Mostly, though, she talks about learning to feel her feelings rather than numbing them and learning to tell the truth.
Something clicked for me as I watched Glennon pace the stage in her cute, boot-cut jeans and talk honestly into the camera about being truthful. I thought about my blog and how I felt paralyzed when I thought of writing a new post. I understood then that I afraid of being honest, and that in the absence of being able to share with complete honesty, I had lost my desire to write.
I’d like to find a way to be honest here and to share my life again – all of it, the good and the bad. I know that I will be limited, to a degree, because some stories are not mine to tell. But my story is mine to tell, and I would like to tell the truth of it because I think that I am not alone (even though it desperately feels that way most days). I think that someone else – maybe one of you, even – may need to understand that he or she is not alone, either.
I know that there are some people in my family who may read what I write and may become angry. They may even shut me out entirely. I have come to know, though, that there are worse fates, and that I am already shut out. Others may be appalled and offended that I would share so openly about things we just don’t talk about except maybe in private Facebook messages or on occasional phone calls, and certainly not in public with strangers.
I can’t care about offending, though. I must be true to myself, and that means being honest and talking out loud about things that are difficult and writing them down. I’ve been down this darkened path of keeping things in, and it’s not working for me. I don’t feel whole.
My truth is this: I am the sister of a schizophrenic who will not take medications consistently. Increasingly over these past several years, I have accepted that my brother is also an addict, turning to drugs to self-medicate. I am the daughter of a mother who fell so deep into depression when my father became ill that alcohol must have seemed her only way to escape. When my father died, I think alcohol must have seemed even more comforting than ever before. Or maybe it seemed the only choice. (I can only speculate. After all, her story is not mine to tell.) I am the mother of a curious and wonderful son who never fails to keep me on my toes. I am the mother of a beautiful seventh grader who has grown up too fast and is determined to wear makeup and embrace social media before I am ready. I am the mother of these two amazing children, and I must keep them at a distance from their uncle because I am afraid of him and the violence that he has proven he is capable of.
I will not tell their stories, but I would like to be brave enough to tell my own. I will try to be brave enough. I think that if I can be honest here again, painfully honest even when it makes me uncomfortable- makes us all uncomfortable – I can write again. I can be here again.